It’s official: Clark College faculty will strike Monday morning.
The Association for Higher Education, which represents more than 400 full- and part-time faculty members, announced Friday evening it was unable to reach a deal with college administrators. Interim President Sandra Fowler-Hill announced later that classes will be canceled, but campus will remain open.
The two sides have been locked in negotiations for 15 months, bargaining over employee wages at the Vancouver community college. Particularly at contention is the salary of part-time faculty, who are paid by the quarter. Faculty are advocating to bring part-time faculty wages up to a percentage of full-time faculty wages, a proposal to which the college has, until recently, been resistent. The college’s latest proposal would, in five years, set part-time faculty salaries between 70 and 73 percent of full-time faculty salaries, prorated for their teaching load.
But union President Suzanne Southerland says the proposal takes too long to implement. Part-time professors are paid between $2,925 and $3,037 for a five-credit, 12-week lecture course. An adjunct professor this week said with a nearly full-time course load, she’s left making about $26,500 a year.
“We are fighting for a fair contract that provides competitive pay for all Clark College faculty, including equitable pay for our part-time professors,” Southerland said in a union news release. “Clark instructors and professors appreciate the tremendous support from our students, the community, college staff and other unions.”
Fowler-Hill expressed disappointment Friday evening, writing in a campus email that she was “committed to working with faculty to get students back in class.”
“It is our highest priority to find an agreement with faculty, end this contract dispute and move forward,” she wrote.
The Clark College Board of Trustees will meet early Monday morning in executive session to discuss possible litigation, as well as its strategy in continued bargaining. The trustees voted last month to give Fowler-Hill the authority to file an injunction to stop the strike. State law prohibits college faculty from striking but offers no penalty.
Fowler-Hill said other services on campus will remain open. It remains to be seen how other college programs could be disrupted by Washington Public Employee Association members who may not cross the association’s picket line.
Clark College has 363 part-time instructors and 188 full-time instructors.
The college is also in the midst of searching for a new permanent president and is currently interviewing four candidates for the position. Two of those candidates will be on campus next week for public forums, and Fowler-Hill will present her State of the College address Thursday.
The two sides are slated to continue bargaining through the weekend.